The Bugkalot

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The Sierra Madre Mountains of Nueva Vizcaya are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the Philippines. They are also home to the Bugkalot, a fierce and warlike people. For generations the Bugkalot were headhunters. Headhunting was such an ingrained part of their culture that it was impossible for a young man to get married until he had taken a head. In their headhunting they ranged further and further into the lowlands surrounding them until a time came when it seemed to the Philippine government that the only possible solution to the problem was to send the military into the mountains of the Sierra Madre to deal with the Bugkalot men who were killing so freely. God intervened in 1954 when a Filipino missionary named Florentino Santos moved in among the Bugkalot and began to learn their language. He preached the good news of the Gospel and in the late 1950′s Tebdey and many other Bugkalot men came to faith in Christ and learned to be afraid to kill. The headhunting continued for many years before it was finally brought under control as more and more men and women learned to follow Christ, which finally brought peace to the Sierra Madre.

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Images by Edber Mamisao

Today more than sixty percent of the men, women and children among the Bugkalot have become followers of Christ and headhunting has become a part of their living history. The men who once sought to take the lives of other men are today seeking something very different. In 2011 the Bugkalot churches sent out the first Bugkalot missionaries to the Agta tribe living in Bicol. The Bugkalot had visited Bicol and seen how difficult life is for the Agta and it broke their hearts. The first group of missionaries was followed by a second group and together they have learned the Agta language and begun to teach. Now a third group of missionaries is preparing to join the first two groups. The Bugkalot are shining the light in the darkness in Bicol, and many of the Agta who live there have already placed their faith in Christ, while many other villages are requesting that someone come to their village to teach the Good News.

Perhaps Milyano, a Bugkalot pastor put it best,

We Bugkalot have been the ones to whom others have gone and now it is our turn to go to others who need to hear.

They face a daunting task because more than ninety percent of the Bugkalot still have no source of income, but they will not let their own poverty stop them from keeping their promise. They are determined to send Bugkalot families to help the Agta. We in turn are determined to help create an economy among the Bugkalot by starting businesses that they can run to both support their families and sustain their promised outreach to the Agta.

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